Benjamin Whitman.

Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r online

. (page 20 of 192)
Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 20 of 192)
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Neely's mill.

A gristmill on Sixteen-Mile creek, in
North East township, by Col. Tuttle, in 1807,
afterward known as Scouller's.

Three miles south of the city, on what is
now the Waterford Flank Road, Robert
McCullough, in 1802 or 1804, put up a saw
and gristmill, which became known as the
Erie County Mills. He used the water of
Mill creek. In 1814, a small gristmill was
built by Thomas Miller, on the little stream
which empties into the bay at the Head, to
which he soon after added a mill for making
linseed oil.

The following shows when the mills
mentioned were erected :

1814— The West Girard grist and sawmill,
on Elk creek, by Peter Woolverton. A saw-
mill where Lines' mills stand, on Crooked
creek, in Springfield, by Amos Remington
and Oliver Cross.

1815 — A sawmill by William Saltsman,
at the foot of the gulley of Four-Mile creek,
in Harbor Creek township.

1816 — A sawmill by James Lo\e, on Wal-

nut creek, in Mill Creek township. A saw-
mill on Mill creek, by Foote & Parker.

About 1820 — The Strong gristmill, on
Crooked creek, in Springfield, by Andrew

1822— The Low vi lie mills, by Samuel
Low. The Wattsburg mills, by William

1828 — The Nason mill, on Bear run, in
Fairview, by Daniel Bear. The Porter mill,
on Conneaut creek, in Springfield, by Com-
fort Ha}'. Two mills in Amitj' township,
near Milltown, one by Capt. James Donald-
son. A gristmill at Wesleyville, by John

1824 — A sawmill in the south part of
Greenfield, by John Whiteside.

1825 — Shattuck's sawmill at Wesleyville.
The mills at Wellsburg, by Samuel Wells.

1826— The old Cooper mill, on Four Mile
creek, by William Saltsman.

The Burger gristmill, on French creek, in
LeBfEuf township, was built by George
Burger about 1830; the Line gristmill, in
Springfield, by Mr. Case, about 1832 ; the
Sterrettania mills, on Elk creek, by David S.
Sterrett, in 1839; the Moore sawmill, in
LeBocuf, about 1840: and the Branchville
mill, about 1850.


Among the earliest mills were Weigle's, at
the crossing of Walnut creek by the Ridge
road, in Fairview township, built by S. F.
Gudtner ; the Elgin mills, on Beaver Dam
run, by Joseph Hall; the grist mill on Le-
Boeuf creek, in Greene, by Jacob Brown; and
the Backus mill on Six-Mile creek, in Harbor
creek. All of these were established in the
beginning of the century, but the exact dates
cannot be obtained. A sawmill was built at
an early period by Michael Jackson, and a
gristmill by Amos King, at Albion. In 1810
there was a carding and woolen mill on the
site of the Cass factory in Harbor creek.

Soon after the war of 1812-14, a perfect
mania arose for building sawmills, and every
stream that could be turned to use was em-
ployed to drive from one to a dozen wheels.
The county was still largely co\ered with
forest trees, and all of the streams contained
an abundance of water. The cutting off of the
timber was followed by the drying up of the
streams. Most of the mills have gone down.


and those that remain generally use steam,
With few exceptions, the gristmills remain on
the sites originally adopted.


The first concern in the county for the
manufacture of iron goods was a foundry at
Freeport, North East township, built in 1824,
by Philetus Glass. The next was established
in 1833 "by Messrs. Hinkley, Jarvis & Co.,
of Westfield, N. Y., who erected two small
wooden buildings near the corner of Eleventh
and State streets, in Erie, and began the man-
ufacture in them of iron castings for plows,
sawmill machinery and a cheap class of stoves.
The motive power at first consisted of one
blind horse. Various changes in the members
of the firm connected with the business oc-
curred in the eighteen years which followed ;
W. II. Johnson, James Sennett, Pardon Ben-
nett, E. A. Lester and Walter Chester being
members of the firm under various names dur-
ing that period. The invested capital in land,
buildings, machinery and patterns was |22,-
000 in 1851, and it was considered a large es-
tablishment. Then followed other firms :
Senneit & Co., Sennett, Barr & Co., Barr &
Johnson, Barr, Johnson & Co., Johnson,
Black & Co., and' Black & Germer. '

" In 1840 W' . H. Johnson withdrew from
the firm of Johnson, Sennett & Co., ' The
Old Furnace,' and, associated with William
Ilimrod, David Himrod and B. B. Vincent,
organized 'The New Furnace Company,'
which had its works on the square bounded by
State, French, Eleventh and Twelfth streets.
The business has been continued under the
firm names of Johnson, Himrod & Co., Vin-
cent, Himrod & Co., Tibbals, Shirk & White-
head, and the Chicago and Erie Stove Com-

Out of " The New Furnace Company " has
also grown the Erie City Iron Works,
Cleveland & Hardwick and others of the most
prominent manufacturing institutions in the

Of the later mills and factories mention
will be made in the city, borough and town-
ship chapters. The number in the county,
outside of Erie and Corry, in 1880, was com-
puted to be as follows : Creamery, 1 ; cheese
factories, 28 ; gristmills, 36 ; tanneries, 14 ;
saw, shingle, lath and heading mills, 117;
cider, jell and vinegar factories, 27 ; planing

mills and sash, door and blind factories, 17;
woolen, carding and fulling mills, 6; paper
mills, 2 ; brick and tile works, 8; manufac-
tories of wooden articles, 39; beer breweries,
3; carriage and wagon shops, 11; miscella-
neous, 12; total, 316. Altogether, there were
probably 450 dift'erent manufacturing estab-
lishments in Erie county, and the number
doubtless exceeds 500 at present.


The following interesting particulars were
contributed by M, R. Barr, Esq., to the Erie
^owzr///;-, published in 1888: "To one ac-
quainted only with the present methods of
paying wages, the old-time method would
seem to be as extraordinary as it really was.
Printed due-bills in the fractional parts of a
dollar in eighths, and for one, two, five and
ten dollars, were issued, payable in merchan-
dise or castings, and this ' currency ' was good
in the hands of employes for such meat, flour
and other provisions as they might need for
their own use ; but if presented by any other
party payment could only be claimed in regu-
lar ' store goods' or castings. A small por-
tion of the wages was paid in cash ; but an
employe must be an exceptionally good and
important ' hand ' if his cash receipts on ac-
count of wages exceeded an average of a dol-
lar per week.

" After the passage of the law by the
Pennsylvania Legislature forbidding the issu-
ing of printed due-bills, or anything in the
similitude of bank bills, or intended to circu-
late as bank bills, or payable in anything but
cash, a scheme was devised and executed by
the ' New Furnace Company,' to issue metal-
lic tokens having very much the appearance
of coin, and in the fractions of a dollar, in
eighths and one dollar amounts ; and there-
after 'Pewteringtum,' as it was generally
called, formed quite a considerable part of the
circulating medium in local trade, and entirely
superseded ' Blue Crackee,' as the due-bills
were named (excepting those payable in
'castings only'), and which were vulgarly
called ' Crackee and be d d."

"The following incident illustrates the
mode of paying wages forty years ago : The
bookkeeper, Mr. M., said to the member of
the Furnace Company firm who acted as cash-
ier : ' Mr. C, one of the men, Mr. H., wants
six dollars in cash this evening to pay the taxes


on his farm.' 'Well,' replied Mr. C, 'he
cannot have so much money as that at once.'
Mr. M. argued that H. had had no money
since he (M.) had been bookkeeper for the
firm, and, by M.'s persuasion, C. consented to
give H. the money. H. was called into the
office and the money handed to him ; and Mr.
C. asked, ' Mr. H., how long have you worked
in this establishment ? ' H. replied, ' Over
ten years.' ' How much of your wages have
you had in cash during that time? " inquired

Mr. C. ' Just what I now have in my hand.
This is the first money I have ever received
for my work,' was the reply of H.

" The system of monthly cash payment of
wages was commenced by Barr & Johnson in
1862, and very soon afterward they were fol-
lowed by Tibbals, Shirk & Whitehead, who
paid their workmen their full wages in cash
weekly, and this system has been regularly con-
tinued, with but few exceptions, by all the manu-
facturing firms of the city to the present day."


Main Thoroi-ghpares, Mail Roi'tes, Stage Lines, Old Taverns, Etc.

IT is scarcely necessary to remind those who
have read the preceding chapters that the
French cut a road from Presque Isle to
LeBcEuf in 1758, the first year of their oc-
cupation, and kept it up as long as they
maintained posts in western Pennsylvania.
This was the first, ar d for more than forty
years the only road in Erie county. The
French road began at the mouth of Mill creek,
ran south on a line parallel with Parade street,
in Erie, to the corners in Marvintown, and
then across Mill creek. Summit and Water-
ford townships, to Fort LeBoeuf, in the pres-
ent Waterford borough.

An act passed the Legislature of Pennsyl-
vania in 1791 to open a road from Presque
Isle to French creek, and another in 1795 for
the survey of a route from LeBoeuf to the
Juniata river in MifHin county. The .Susque-
hanna and Waterford turnpike was located by
Andrew Ellicott in 1796, from Lake LeBcpuf
to Curwensville, in Clearfield county, by way
of Meadville and Franklin. Its purpose was
to give a continuous road from Erie to Phila-

The earliest road opened after the Ameri-
can occupation was by Judah Colt, as agent
of the Population Company, in 1797, from
Freeport, on the lake near North East, to
Colt's Station, and from the latter place to the

forks of French creek, or Wattsburg, late in
the season of 1798. The Eastern road through
Greenfield, from North East to Wattsburg was
laid out about 1800; tiie ones from Waterford
to Cranesville through Washington township,
and from Waterford to Edinboro, about 1802,
and the road from North East to Waterford,
by way of Phillipsville, in 1804.

The vState opened a road through the
northern tier of counties, from the head-wa-
ters of the Delaware river, in almost a direct
line, to Ohio, in 1802 or 1808, which is still
known as the State road.


This road was surveyed by James McMa-
hon in 1805, and appears to have been ready
for travel in the same year. It was opened
westward, from the New York line, in a di-
rect course to Wesleyville, at which place
travel diverged by a cross-road to the Lake
road, and reached Erie, which consisted of a
small collection of houses at the mouth of Mill
creek, by the latter thoroughfare. The court,
in 1812, ordered the completion of the road to
Peach street in Erie, and it was thrown open
to travel some time in that year. The Buff'alo
road generally follows a nearly straight line
from Peach street to the city of Buffalo, but
there is an abrupt jog at the Saltsman place,



the reason for which has been a puzzle to
many. It is said to be due to two causes, —
first, there was an ugly swamp on the straight
line, south of the present road; and, second,
it was considered more desirable to enter
the city on the line of Eighteenth street. The
Bulfalo road forms the principal street of the
borough of North East, and of the villages of
VVesleyville, Harbor Creek, Moorheadville,
and Northville. The distances from Central
park in Erie bv this route are as follows :
Buffalo ; 90 miles ; Northville, 19 ; North East,
15; Moorheadville, lOi ; Harbor Creek, 7i ;
Wesleyville, 4^.


The Ridge road is practically a continua-
tion of the Buffalo road, and is connected with
it by the southern part of Peach street in the
city of Erie. It follows the line of the First
Ridge and traverses the western part of Mill
Creek, and the entire width of Fairview,
Girard and Springfield townships to the Ohio
line. It was opened in 1805, the same j'ear
as the Buffalo road. The Ridge road passes
through and constitutes the principal streets
of East Springfield, Girard and Fairview bor-
oughs and the villages of Weigleville, Swan-
vilie, West Girard and West Springfield. It
is 100 miles by this route to Cleveland, 25 to
West Springfield, 21 to East Springfield, 16^
to West Girard, 16 to Girard, 12 to Fairview,
9 to Swanville, and 2^ to Weigleville, meas-
uring from Central paik in Erie City.


The Lake road crosses the entire county
from east to west, at a distance from Lake
Erie varying from a few rods to half a mile.
It enters Erie on the east by Sixth street, and
leaves on the west by Eighth street. The
Lake road becomes merged into the Ridge
road at or near Conneaut, Ohio. It was laid
out in 180(3, and opened partly in that year
and at intervals of several j'ears after, as the
country became settled. This road is the main
avenue to the Head, Trinity cemetery, Lake-
side cemetery and the various club houses and
pleasure resorts east and west of the city. It
is occupied in part by the electric road from
the western terminus of Eighth street, in Erie,
to a little beyond the crossroads at the Cath-
olic cemetery.


The Erie and Waterford turnpike was orig-
inated by Col. Thomas Forster. Previous to
its completion, the travel between Erie and
Waterford was wholly over the old French
road, which had been but slightly repaired
and was in a horrible condition. The turn-
I pike company was formed in 1805, its avowed
I object being the building of a link in the great
contemplated thoroughfare from Erie to Phila-
delphia by way of the French creek, Juniata,
and Susquehanna valleys. Work was com-
menced in 1806 and the road was completed
in 1809. The turnpike was a paying property
until 1845, when it ceased to be remunerative
to the stockholders. It was soon after aban-
doned by them and accepted as a township
road. Judge Cochran opposed the building of
the " pike" on the ground that it was uncon-
stitutional to make the public pay toll. The
toll question was tested before the county
court, and Judge Moore gave an opinion sus-
taining the constitutionality of the act of in-

The turnpike originally ended at Water-
ford ; but twenty years later the Waterford &
Susquehanna Turnpike Co. was organized,
which extended the route by Meadville and
Franklin to Curwensville, Clearfield county,
where it connected with another turnpike run-
ning across the State, making a good wagon
road from Erie to Harrisburg and Philadel-
phia. The first toll gate out of Erie was kept
by Robert Brown, near the southern line of
Erie City, and the second by Martin Strong,
on the summit between Erie and Waterford.
The " pike " commenced at the Ridge road,
now Twenty-sixth street in Erie, and from
there extended across Mill Creek, Summit and
Waterford townships to Waterford borough.
It is four miles by this route to Kearsarge and
fourteen to the borough of Waterford.


The Erie & Edinboro Plank Road Co.
was organized in 1850, and the road
was completed in 1852. It followed the
course of the Waterford turnpike to a point a
little south of Walnut creek, where it
branched off and adopted a route partly new
and partly the old Edinboro road. The road
bed was covered, as the name indicates, with
heavy planks, and the grade being in general
quite moderate, furnished an easy and


pleasant thoroughfare while it was kept in
good condition. The Edinboro & Meadville
plank road, completed simultaneously, formed
a smooth, continuous route from Lake Erie to
the county seat of Crawford county. Though
the travel was large, neither road proved a
profitable investment, and both were aban-
doned as plank roads and became township
roads in 1868 or 1809. The distances are
twenty miles to Edinboro, fourteen to Mc-
Lane, twelve to Branchville, ten to Middle-
boro and four to Kearsarge.


The Erie & Waterford plank road was
commenced in 1850 and completed in 1851,
one year in advance of the one to Edinboro.
In laying out the road an entirely new route
was adopted, following the valleys of Mill
creek. Walnut creek and LeBoeuf creek, and
obviating the heavy grades of the old turn-
pike. So skillfully was the engineering and
grading performed, that a horse can trot
most of the length of the road. The stranger
traveling over this easy route would scarcely
believe that at the Walnut creek summit he
was about 500 and at Graham's summit be-
tween 650 and 700 feet above the level of
Lake Erie. There were three toll gates on
the line — one a short distance north of
Waterford, another at Capt. J. C. Graham's,
in Summit, and the third near Eliot's or
Densmore's mill. The road never paid a
profit, and was abandoned to the townships
in 1868 or 1869. The distance between Erie
and Waterford is slightly more than by tiie


About the same time that the above plank
roads were built, another was pushed through
from Waterford to Drake's mills, Crawford
county, to prevent the diversion of travel that
was feared from the opening of the Erie &
Edinboro and Edinboro & Meadville roads.
This enterprise was no more of a financial
success than the others, and, like them, was
given up to the townships.




The stage company owning the line be-
tween Erie and Waterford had a quarrel over
tolls with the turnpike company in the win-

ter of 1827-28, which resulted in the con-
struction by the former, at considerable
expense, through Summit, Greene and Water-
ford townships, of a new road, to which was
given the suggestive name of the Shunpike.
The route adopted commenced at W^aterford,
near where the plank road and turnpike
separate, and ran across the country until it
connected with the old French road. A
good share of the route is still used as a town-
ship road.


A road was opened in 1809 from Erie to
Wattsburg, through Phillipsville. In 1828 a
re-survej' was made under the authority of
the State, which appropriated a small sum for
the purpose. This resulted in some changes
in the location. In 1851, the Erie & Watts-
burg Plank Road Co. was organized. The
plank road was completed in 1853, a year
after the one to Edinboro, and two years
after the one to Waterford. In the adoption
of a route the old road was pretty closely
pursued, except for a short distance in
Greene township, and from the Siegel place in
Greene, to Lowville, where a new route was
adopted. The highest points are at the H.
L. Pinney and Bailey places, in Greene
township, the elevation above Lake Erie
being some 500 feet at the former and GOO
at the latter.

There were four regular toll gates — at
Lowville, at Oscar Sears's in Venango, at
Diefenthaler's in Greene, and at Marvintown.
The road was a non-paying enterprise, and it
was allowed to run down, though toll was
still exacted. In the spring of 1865, public
feeling became so much excited that a party
of farmers was formed who started at Erie
and tore down every gate on the road.
Though they were severely threatened, none
of the party were tried or punished, and no
toll has been charged on the road since. It is
now kept up by the townships through which
it extends. The distances from Erie are : To
Wattsburg, twenty miles ; to Lowville, eight-
een miles ; to St. Boniface, seven and a half
miles, and to Belle Vallev four miles.

iKE ple;


The first road in the direction of Lake
Pleasant was opened in 1821-22 from Erie to
a point near the Martin Hayes farm, in Greene


township. In 1826-27, at a heavy expense
for the period, the county continued the road
past Lake Pleasant to French creek, where it
meets the thoroughfare between Union and
Wattsburg. The distance from Erie to Lake
Pleasant is twelve miles, and to French creek
two and a half miles further. It is said to be
two miles shorter from Erie to Wattsburg by
this road than by the plank road. The road
branches off from the Wattsburg plank at the
Davidson place, a mile or more outside of

THE colt's station RO.VD.

The road from Wesleyville to Colt's sta-
tion was laid out about 1813, to give a route
between Erie and Mayville, N. Y. At Colt's
station, an intersection is made with the
North East and Wattsburg road.


The first public house on the soutli shore
of Lake Erie, west of Buffalo, and the first
building erected within the limits of Erie
City, was the Presque Isle Tavern, built by
Col. Seth Reed in July, 1795. It stood near
the mouth of Mill creek, and was a one-story
log and stone structure. The next year. Col.
Reed built a two-story log building on the
southwest corner of Second and Parade
streets, which he turned over to his son,
Rufus S. Reed, who kept a store and tavern
in it for many years.

The third tavern was built in Erie by
George Buehler in 1800, at the northeast cor-
ner of Third and French streets, which after-
ward became known as the " McConkey
House." This building was occupied as
Perry's headquarters in 1813.

[A fuller account of the early public
houses in Erie will be found in Chapter XIV.
of the City History.]

Outside of Erie, the earliest public house
was opened in Waterford by Lieut. Martin in
1795. Public houses were established by Rich-
ard Swan at Manchester in 1805; by Henrj'
Burgett in North East in 1806 ; by Lemuel
Brown on the site of the Haynes house, in the
same place, in 1808; by John Ryan on the
Buffalo road, between Erie and Wesleyville,
in 1809; by George W. Reed in Waterford in
1810; and by John and David Phillips in
Phillips\ille in the same year.

Previous to the introduction of railroads,
the Buft'alo and Ridge roads were among

the busiest thoroughfares in the country, be-
ing the great avenues for emigration, trading
and droving between the Northeastern States
and the West. Numerous public houses
sprung up and did a good business. The tav-
ern keepers of those days were usually men of
much force of character, and wielded wide po-
litical influence. It is said that at one time
there was not a mile along the roads named
without a public house.

Among the most noted of the old lake
shore taverns were the " Doty" and "Keith"
Houses at East Springfield; the "Martin
House" at Girard ; the "Fairview House" at
Fairview ; "Swan's Hotel " at Swanville ; the
"Halfwav House," a little west of the county
almshou-c ; I he "Weigleville House;" the
"Ryan" or ■ I'a^i^art House" near Wesleyville ;
"FuIIl-i-'s Tavern" at Wesleyville; and the
" Brawley House" at North East.

Back from the lake shore the best known
of the older hotels were Martin Strong's, at
the summit of the Waterford turnpike; the
"Eagle Hotel" at Waterford ; the "Robinson
House " at Edinboro ; the " Sherman House "
at Albion; the "Wattsburg House " at Watts-
burg ; and the " Lockport House" at Lock-

The Erie City hotels, and the more recent
ones outside, will be described in their proper


Up to 1800, a good share of the travel and
transportation was by means of small boats on
the lake from Buffalo, and by way of French
creek from Pittsburg. The boats on French
creek generally went no farther up than
Waterford, but in times of good water they
were poled to Greenfield Village. They were
either canoes or flat-bottomed vessels, the lat-
ter being somewhat like the mud scows now
seen on Presque Isle bay, but small and shal-
low, drawing but a trifling amount of water.
Those on the lake were originally propelled
by oars ; but it was not long till sails were in-
troduced. In winter many persons came into
the country, either on foot or in sledges, by
traveling on the ice of the lake.

By 1810, there were roads to all points
south, east and west, and the opportunities for
travel and transportation became greatly im-
proved. The roads, however, were still rough
and muddy, and horseback riding was the


favorite mode of travel. As the roads became
better, the once familiar two-horse wagons
were introduced. These were covered with
cotton cloth stretched over hickory ribs, and

Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 20 of 192)